Women’s rugby officially made its return to Belfield on Wednesday 19th October as UCD faced up against their rivals, DCU, on their home turf. There was anticipation in the air prior to kickoff, not just for the match alone, but for the presumed inevitable thunder and lightning storms. However, Thornfield pitch remained dry throughout the 80 minutes, allowing for an exciting matchup.
UCD entered the field with acquired confidence as the 2nd XV thumped DCU B earlier in the evening with a final scoreline of 58-15. With a 7.30 PM kickoff, the floodlights shone on the main event of the night. The match began with a number of penalties being awarded to both sides by the whistle-happy referee which would continue throughout the game.
The women in blue opened their account in the 4th minute as winger, Brandi Rushfeldt, touched down after UCD spread the play out wide to exploit a defensively unorganised DCU. Out-half Emma Kelly added two additional points moments later to make it 7-0.
The visitors responded well to this early setback as they posted their first try of the evening. Emily Jo White’s strong carry under the posts followed by a conversion tied the game 7-7 at the 15-minute mark. DCU gathered momentum following their equaliser, beginning to impose their dominant scrum game coupled with some strong carries off the back by the number 8, Kate Jordan.
Over the next 20 minutes, the travelling side maintained consistent pressure on UCD’s defence, eventually culminating in a try. However, in a bizarre situation, the referee disallowed the try moments after awarding it. The official granted the home team a penalty on their own 5 metre line and seemed to cite aggressive behaviour as the reason when telling off the offending DCU player.
If that strange event was not disappointing enough for the away team, just minutes later UCD’s outside centre, Alais Diebold, notched her side’s 2nd try in similar fashion to Rushfeldt’s early score, adding insult to injury. After a missed conversion, the score read UCD 12 – 7 DCU going into the halftime interval.
UCD picked up from where they left off after the restart, as Diebold made a break down the right side of the field and added a 2nd try to her personal tally. A windy evening meant another unconverted try for the college as they now led by 10 points. Once again, DCU reacted positively to conceding and tested UCD’s composure on the back foot. 10 minutes into the 2nd half, a beautiful line from Kathryn Dempsey sliced open the Belfield backline and with the subsequent conversion, UCD’s lead was cut to just three points.
Following almost immediately after, DCU were reduced to 14 women for 10 minutes as Dempsey was shown a yellow card for a high tackle. This yellow card proved fatal as DieBold continued to terrorise the opposition as she made it over the try line again. Completing her hat-trick with a Mack Hansen-like interception from a DCU penalty, this ultimately stretched the scoreline out to a two-score game.
In what seemed to be a done-deal for the UCD women, the tide of the match changed one more time as UCD’s captain and fly-half, Emma Kelly, was sin-binned within the final 15 minutes. DCU took advantage of this numerical difference and pressed on to find a result. Despite a late surge and a try from Abbie Gibney, it was too little too late for the visitors. The missed conversion was accompanied by the referee’s final whistle as the tie finished UCD 22 – 19 DCU.
A hard-fought and deserving win for the home team meant that they topped their division. This sets an early precedent and offers a challenge for the remaining teams in their group.
Dara Smith-Naughton – Sports Editor
Featured Image Credit: Dara Smith-Naughton